When the Houston Dynamo kick off on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against Austin FC at BBVA Stadium, it will not be the first matchup between the clubs of the day. Starting at noon on Saturday, the Houston Dynamo Academy will take on Austin FC’s Academy in contests between both the U15 and U17 teams. 

The matchups will be the first of the year for both Academy teams, with the U23 team also kicking off their schedule this weekend against Capital City. To mark the occasion, the team held a ceremony to name the captains of both the U23 and U17 teams that was attended by Houston Dynamo FC Head Coach Tab Ramos, captains Tim Parker and Boniek Garcia, as well as members of both academy teams.  

Parker and Garcia handed the captain’s armbands to the newly chosen leaders of the two Academy squads, a gesture which U17 captain Andre Gitau says is very meaningful. “It's an honor to have them come out and present us with the captain's armband,” the 14-year-old said. “I'd like to take their traits and bring it to this team.” 

This sort of synergy across different levels of the club is something that Ramos has tried to build up since first arriving in Houston in 2019. In addition to events such as this, Ramos has utilized intrasquad scrimmages and encouraged senior players to attend Academy games as a way of building cohesion throughout the organization. According to Gitau, efforts such as this mean a lot to the Academy players. 

“As soon as Tab came in, the first team got more involved with the Academy,” Gitau said. “More players started going. They started watching our games. It's a great experience to have them out. It motivates us to be better every day.” 

In addition to Gitau, the other captain named on Friday was the U23’s Diego Gonzalez. The 18-year-old styles himself as a less vocal leader, but still one who demands the respect of his teammates through his hard work and dedication to the club. For Gonzalez, being named captain is a well-earned challenge that he is ready to take on. 

“It's an honor to be the captain of this group,” Gonzalez said. “It's a lot of responsibility but I think the way that I handle my teammates will allow everybody to be on the same page.” 

Overseeing the armband ceremony was Academy Director Paul Holocher, who knows these two captains as well as anybody. 

“These guys have led by example...What I’ve seen from them is real consistency,” Holocher said. “They’ve been very, very consistent. They’ve been very coachable. They’ve been guys that work on their own a lot, taking in information really well.” 

U23 Head Coach Kenny Bundy also spoke about building cohesions between the senior squad and Academy, and how it can help push all levels of the Club to be the best possible versions of themselves. 

“I think it speaks a lot about our club to have these guys out and I think that the goals that we have as a club, they start with the First Team and they work their way down,” Bundy said. “As young men, it’s something that we can embrace as a group. We can get results as a group. We can go through hard times as a group. And just because someone wears an armband does not mean there’s not 10, 15, 20 other captains on the field. We have to make sure everybody is stepping up to lead. And it starts tomorrow.”